6 Top Golf Destinations Close to New York City

A friend recently reached out about public courses to play around the New York City area for a weekend golf getaway.

It seemed an easy enough question, especially given that the New York area and its surrounds boast more golfers than any other metro area in the country. But he had some caveats that left me, a lifelong New Jersey resident, wracking my brain more than expected.

This particular group of college buddies planned to connect for a guys’ weekend ahead of a spring wedding and all are generally within an hour or so of downtown Manhattan. They were seeking a bit of a destination escape for a road trip, preferably less than a four-hour drive from the city, with overnight accommodations and, importantly, multiple “good courses.”

The options are surprisingly limited for this set of parameters. If you do an online search simply on “New York golf resorts,” chances are a bunch of those returns will be five to six hours away in upstate New York. But here are a handful of options—mostly outside of New York state, but in close proximity to The Big Apple—worth consideration.

Bethpage State Park (Bethpage, N.Y.)—1 to 2 hours

This location might spring to mind first for many familiar with golf in the Empire State, with five golf courses in total and around 50 hotels within five miles of the park itself. Bethpage in some ways is synonymous with public golf in New York, its heralded Black course having hosted both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. About 40 miles east of the city on Long Island, Bethpage’s range of golf offerings unquestionably fits the bill as a New York golf destination and its Red course is a strong sidekick to the Black. The main issue here is that it almost assuredly isn’t a fit for those looking to lock in a true golf getaway, as New York residents can book tee times online only a week in advance, while its five days ahead of time for out-of-staters. With coveted times and courses going quickly, Bethpage is probably a great option only for the right group.

Crystal Springs (Hamburg, N.J.)—1 to 2 hours

Less than 60 miles northeast of New York City in the mountains of northern New Jersey, Crystal Springs is one of the top golf resorts in the Northeast, not to mention one of the 10 biggest in the nation. The property is popular with families and couples, but also makes for a great golf getaway. Crystal Springs boasts six courses and 90 holes in total: four 18-hole championship courses and two family-friendly 9-holers. Among the former is Ballyowen, a linksy layout often regarded as the No. 1 public course in New Jersey, and two others—picturesque Wild Turkey and the rollicking Crystal Springs—that sit adjacent to the resort’s sprawling, 420-room Grand Cascades Lodge. For N.Y. proximity and a variety of high-quality golf options, this one is hard to beat.

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Ballyowen (photo courtesy Crystal Springs)

Seaview (Galloway, N.J.)—2 to 3 hours

About 120 miles south of New York City—via the N.J. Turnpike and Garden State Parkway—is a tranquil Jersey Shore getaway that has two very good golf courses and a nearly 300-room hotel set on 670 acres of coast and woodlands. Just over the bridge from Atlantic City, Seaview has hosted the LPGA’s Shoprite Classic at its Donald Ross and Hugh Wilson-designed Bay Course for more than three decades. The Bay Course is one of the best public courses in New Jersey, with water views, small greens, and deep pot bunkers. The Pines Course is exactly what it sounds like, as the layout designed by William Flynn and Howard Toomey winds through mature trees away from the water. Operated by Troon, Seaview offers a number of good stay-and-play packages.

Atlantic City (Atlantic City, N.J.)—2 to 3 hours

For groups looking for more action or nightlife at the Jersey Shore, Atlantic City has about 10 casino hotels right along the beach to choose from. There are plenty of food and gaming options, whether you’re staying at the Borgata, Ocean Casino Resort, or the Hard Rock Hotel, and the public golf in the area is probably a bit underrated. While Atlantic City Country Club is now private, there are four courses close to one another about 15 miles inland: Ballamor, Harbor Pines, McCullough’s Emerald Links, and Twisted Dune. You can’t go wrong with any of them, but Twisted Dune is the most memorable experience of the bunch, a visually stunning layout with more than 100 bunkers built in an old sand quarry.

Penn National (Fayetteville, Pa.)—3.5 to 4 hours

It might seem strange to include a Pennsylvania property in this group, but Penn National Golf Club & Inn is closer to New York City and northern New Jersey than most upstate New York golf destinations. It can be a bit of a hike, but those who have taken advantage of Penn National’s stay-and-play packages say it’s well worth it. There are six modern lodge buildings, each with eight guest rooms, and two very different courses—both of which garner high marks. The Founders Course, built by Ed Ault in the 1960s, has large contoured greens and tree-lined fairways. The Iron Forge opened in the late 1990s, a wide-open and almost tree-free course that offers 30-mile views of the surrounding farmland and mountains.

Turning Stone Resort Casino (Vernon, N.Y.)—4 hours

This resort is the furthest of the group from New York City, over 250 miles away in central New York. It’s west of the state capital in Albany, but not as far out as the golf courses and inns in New York’s Finger Lakes region or further afield, like near Lake Placid. Turning Stone, operated by the Oneida Indian Nation, has five golf courses and as many different places to stay, not to mention a casino with the largest poker room in the state, more than 2,000 slot machines, and 66 Vegas-style table games. The Tom Fazio-designed Atunyote is the property’s signature course, a scenic parkland setting that hosted a PGA Tour stop until 2010 and counts Tiger Woods among its champions. Kaluhyat (Robert Trent Jones Jr.) and Shenendoah (Rick Smith) are both strong scenic complements.

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Atunyote Course (photo courtesy Turning Stone Resort)

Which other destinations close to New York—with multiple courses—would you recommend for a dedicated golf getaway?